Outstanding prospects for Panther Metals
“…Right now PALM is flying below the market’s radar, but with steady progress in both Canada and Australia the company is giving itself plenty of opportunities to move back into the limelight….”
Panther Metals plc (LSE:PALM), focused on gold, copper, nickel and Platinum Group Metals (PGM) prospects across a cluster of Canadian and Australian assets, has forged ahead with another round of drilling programmes with characteristic energy this summer.
TMS has detailed PALM’s history over the course of a few updates this year. To briefly recap: PALM went public with two prospects in Western Australia, the Marrakai and Annaburroo Gold Projects, covering a total area of 160km2. Both are situated within the Palaeoproterozoic Pine Creek Orogen, which hosts more than 250 gold occurrences and several operating gold mines, including the Rustlers Roost deposit containing 51 Mt @ 1.0g/t Au (1.6 Moz). PALM went on to acquire the Merolia Gold Project, its first post-discovery opportunity in the region, a 145km2 tenement package close to the prolific Granny Smith, Sunrise Dam and Wallaby gold mines, which together have produced nearly 20 Moz gold. Merolia is also prospective for nickel-cobalt sulphide mineralisation: a JORC Exploration Target sets a tonnage range of 30-50 Mt at 0.6 to 0.8pc nickel and 400 to 600ppm cobalt. Last year PALM listed the company’s Australian operations as Panther Metals Ltd – to be referred to for everyday purposes as ‘Panther Australia’ – on Australia’s ASX, a move designed to delineate more precisely PALM’s respective operations in Australia and Canada. PALM continues to hold a 36.6pc in the subsidiary.
On joining the LSE PALM also had a significant Canadian asset, the Big Bear Gold Project in Ontario, subsequently extended through the acquisition of the Dotted Lake Property, a cluster of contiguous claims close to Barrick Gold’s prolific Hemlo mine, which has produced more than 22 Moz of gold over the past 30 years. Located on the northern limb of the Schreiber-Hemlo Greenstone Belt, Dotted Lake spans the prospective geological contact between the Dotted Lake Batholith plutonic intrusive and mafic volcanic and metavolcanic ‘greenstone’ rocks. PALM undertook multiple programmes to define the extent of Big Bear’s resources, analysis published last November indicated several gold anomalies, including a particularly promising 1.3 km long shear-related gold feature. The Project was then sold to Fulcrum Metals for £200,000. PALM will retain a significant interest through 20pc ownership of Fulcrum’s share capital – Fulcrum has yet to go public – and a 2pc net smelter return royalty. The announcement accompanied news that the Project had been issued four new exploration permits ‘facilitating the drilling, trenching and ground geophysics work which is required to make and prove up mineral discoveries.’ The first batch of assay results testing the Dotted Lake’s gold anomaly reported eight separate intervals of gold mineralisation, with four separate gold bearing intervals above 1.0g/t Au intersected between 47m and 158m down hole depth.
Last year PALM significantly expanded its Canadian portfolio by taking a near exclusive exploration holding over the Obonga Project, also in the Thunder Bay region, prospective for gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver, and PGM deposits. The Project covers a total area of around 235km2 and covers 88pc of the Obonga Greenstone Belt, a 32km by 9km wide tract of Archean age metamorphosed volcanic, sedimentary and intrusive rocks prospective for gold, nickel, PGM and base metals. Phase 1 drilling early this year at Obonga confirmed the discovery of a volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) mineral system at the Project’s Wishbone Prospect. VMS type deposits typically occur in clusters, and a geological analysis of the drill programme confirmed the western part of the Obonga Greenstone belt as a very favourable geological environmental, and permissive tract, for the development of further volcanic associated mineralising systems. Results from Wishbone at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto generated ‘significant interest from mining industry practitioners.’ PALM went on to extend its Obonga holdings this spring through the acquisition of 13 new mining claims at the Project’s Awkward Prospect, where historical exploration work indicates ‘highly anomalous platinum and palladium samples at surface combined with very positive geophysical plate modelling of the possible conduit system.’
PALM has also gained access to another Ontario greenstone belt through an agreement to buy the Shear Gold/Manitou Lakes Project encompassing the West Limb and Glass Reef gold properties on the Eagle-Manitou Lakes Greenstone Belt. The 98km2 Project is located within the gold endowed Kenora Mining District, 300 km east of Thunder Bay. An immediately adjacent project owned by Manitou Gold Inc was sold for CAN$7m.
Back on the other side of the globe, Panther Australia defined a JORC Exploration Target for nickel and cobalt at the Coglia Nickel/Cobalt Project on the southernmost area of the Merolia project tenements, with a tonnage range of 30 to 50 Mt at 0.6 to 0.8pc nickel and 400 to 600ppm cobalt. Final assay results for the Project reported ‘the highest-grade intercepts of Nickel and Cobalt in the entire Coglia drill programme’, including 1m at 3.97pc nickel and 1m at 7,900ppm cobalt. Attention has now turned to defining a JORC 2012 compliant maiden Mineral Resource Estimate.
Panther Australia has also completed a 38 hole drilling programme at the Eight Foot Well Gold Prospect at the Merolia Gold Project, designed to provide infill and test potential strike extensions for a historic gold trend outlined in the mid-1990s. The potential for defining a Maiden Mineral Resource Estimate at Eight Foot Well will be assessed once the assay results have been received. The drill rig relocated to the Burtville East Gold Prospect. Burtville contains a peak historic drill intercept of 5m at 23g/t (including 1m at 110g/t) and a peak mineralised stockpile grab sample of 38.45g/t.
PALM’s busy summer
PALM has continued to fire on all cylinders this summer. In July the company reported ‘very high grade gold drill intercepts and visible gold in reverse circulation drilling chips’ at shallow depths at the Burtville East Gold Project and Eight Foot Well prospect in Western Australia. Highlights included intersections of 1m @ 478g/t Au from 28m and 15m @ 53.94g/t Au, results paving the way for a follow-up programme, including both diamond core and reverse circulation drilling, designed to ‘provide important stratigraphic, structural and strike extent data helping to delineate and build on the known lode gold mineralisation’. The programme so far has returned further high-grade gold drilling intercepts, including 7m @ 3.69g/t Au from 61m, 4m @ 17.2g/t Au from 90m, and 7m @ 1.17g/t Au from 75m. Assay results are pending.
A technical update for Dotted Lake published in September detailed the Project’s potential for ultramafic intrusive hosted nickel mineralisation. Based on the findings from airborne geophysics and geochemistry surveys, together with recently digitised historical exploration data, the study defined a new area in the northeast of the property considered a ‘very prospective zone for nickel mineralisation and … underlain by an ultramafic intrusive complex’. The target is located 9km west of a new zone of massive nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation drilled by Palladium One Mining and First Class Metals, the latest in a series of ultramafic hosted nickel discoveries building out a 20km wide nickel district at the venture partners’ Tyko Project. Soil surveys at Dotted Lake share ‘a similar level of anomalous nickel and copper’.
The announcement was followed a few days later by positive findings from a gold focused soil geochemical sampling programme conducted at the Shear Gold/Manitou Lakes Project. All three soil survey grids conducted during this first programme have identified anomalous areas of gold in soil with nearly a fifth of the results returning highly significant gold in soil anomalies above 0.01ppm Au. Five soil samples returned highly anomalous assay results ranging between 1.254ppm Au up to 6.81ppm Au, equivalent to 1.254g/t Au and 6.81g/t Au respectively: these have been designated priority targets for investigation. PALM CEO Darren Hazelwood said: ‘Finding single anomalous gold results in a soil programme is not that unusual, however finding a series of elevated results which correlate with one another, and which outline distinct anomalous areas for gold is far more exciting.’
PALM is now looking ahead to exploration diamond drilling at the Obonga Project, supported by a £1.148m August placing. The programme will focus on five high prospective multi-commodity targets, all permitted. Six drillholes (up to 1,200m total) are scheduled for the Wishbone Prospect, targeting the VMS mineralisation discovered last year, drill hole intercepts including 27.3m of massive sulphide and 51m of sulphide-dominated mineralisation. Three holes will be drilled at the Awkward Prospect, targeting PGE and nickel mineralisation. Awkward is a highly anomalous coincident magnetic and electromagnetic (EM) geophysics target interpreted to be a layered mafic intrusion and magmatic conduit. Historic sampling has confirmed the presence of anomalous platinum and palladium values. Three holes will also be drilled at the Survey Prospect, an anomalous magnetic and EM target adjacent to contact between intrusive mafic rocks and extrusive mafic rocks. One historic drill hole, despite only reaching a depth of 23.5m, intersected several meters of massive sulphides in multiple intersections, of which the main parts were not tested. Two holes will be drilled at the Ottertooth Prospect targeting VMS style mineralisation including copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold. Ottertooth is an anomalous magnetic and EM target adjacent to the contact between intrusive mafic rocks and extrusive mafic rocks and sharing distinctive geological similarities to the Survey Prospect. And one hole will be drilled at the Silver Rim Prospect, targeting intrusion hosted nickel, copper and precious metals. Silver Rim is an anomalous magnetic and EM geophysics target where anomalous lithium has been identified in lake sediment, and silver through soil sampling. August’s placing will also be used to advance gold focused exploration at the Dotted Lake and the Manitou Lakes projects. The company has confirmed the Obonga Drilling Programme is on schedule, with construction of helicopter landing zones at the five drill target locations due for completion ahead of the planned drilling rig mobilisation.
PALM’s most recent interim report, for the six months to 30 June 2022, stated total cash reserves of £71,517 (31 December 2021: £100,586), and a net asset value of £2,631,492. The company recorded a loss for the period of £65,793, down from £97,599 for the equivalent period for 2021. As an evolving small cap PALM has been and will continue to be dependent for the time being on periodic placings to sustain momentum, opening the share price to periodic dilution, but Mr Hazelwood has told TMS the company is keen to avoid the classic natural resources small cap trap of undercapitalisation and over extension. PALM is seeking to calibrate its risk/reward profile through the careful accumulation of promising assets likely to yield near term revenue generating discoveries.
Despite PALM’s energetic progress this summer, the company’s share price has drifted down from levels of just under 12p in April to just below 5p at the time of writing. Part of that is attributable to this year’s turbulent economic conditions, which have swept the value of gold, copper and other metals in their wake.
Gold is expected to perform well during times of turbulence – but it depends on what kind of turbulence. The price of the yellow metal has fallen to its lowest levels in more than two years, under the pressure ever higher US interest rates, rising bond yields and the soaring dollar. But if a worsening economic environment makes even those harbours less hospitable, gold will come into its own, as it always has, a bolthole against the investor’s nightmare scenario of stagflation: higher inflation and slowing economic growth. The dip in the price of copper, nickel and other energy transition metals is perhaps more confusing. The long-term prospects, for copper in particular, are stellar: the red metal will be at heart of the move to a greener economy, used in everything electric from wires to chips. And a copper crunch is looming: inventories fell to 15-year lows last year. But the bull case for copper has been undercut by the darkening economic outlook, prices falling by a third since March. China’s faltering property market is a particular drag on demand. The metal’s long-term prospectus, however, remains strong: analysts expect prices to nearly triple to more than $20,000 per metric ton in the next three years, copper’s tight market and role in decarbonisation still driving its investment case.
PALM can do no more than continue to define the case for its various prospects, as it has done this summer. We have highlighted a number of shares this autumn that may have entered value territory: PALM, funded for a significant drilling campaign at Obonga, is perhaps another. The company was a small cap favourite among investors a couple of years ago, its price peaking at just under 17p last January. Right now PALM is flying below the market’s radar, but with steady progress in both Canada and Australia the company is giving itself plenty of opportunities to move back into the limelight.